A&M system chancellor offers update at monthly chamber luncheon


March 14, 2012 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.

John Sharp is Texas A&M system chancellor.

John Sharp is Texas A&M system chancellor.

The Texas A&M University System has schools throughout the state, from Laredo to Corpus Christi to Galveston and more, Chancellor John Sharp said, but it doesn't cover everywhere.

"If you'll notice, there's a gap between Corpus and Galveston that we'd like to fill someday," he said, smiling.

Sharp spoke to about 140 people inside the Victoria College Student Center on Wednesday at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's March luncheon. There, he updated attendees on the university system.

Texas A&M is home to numerous important research projects, from converting algae to jet fuel in Kingsville to capsule vaccinations not affected by extreme temperatures and mobile "clean rooms" that could assist during a pandemic at a fraction of the current cost.

Eagle Ford Shale production means good economic news for the state but presents another problem, Sharp said.

Factoring in just moderate growth means Texas needs 4 million new jobs by 2018, he said, 2 million of which would require college degrees.

And with only one-third of people in the 18 to 25 age bracket attempting college, something has to change.

The A&M system already is less expensive than others, he said, but recently began researching ways students could obtain degrees for even less.

A $10,000 four-year degree is possible, he said - though probably not at the flagship campus - for students who begin taking college courses in high school, test out of certain courses and the like, he said.

A&M is also working to cut expenses where possible, Sharp said, noting considerations to privatize food, landscaping and janitorial services, as well as cutting back what it pays people to construct buildings.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Vivian said he enjoyed Sharp's presentation and he's glad to see a product of the Crossroads doing so well.

Sharp, a Placedo native, has served as railroad commissioner, state comptroller, congressman and a representative, among other jobs.

"From humble beginnings, he became chancellor of A&M," Vivian said. "He is truly an inspiration."

As far as word of the University of Houston-Victoria's potential move under the Texas A&M University System umbrella, Sharp said that was one for the Legislature to decide.

The university system is for the idea, he said, calling UHV a perfect fit.

"That's an easy decision for us but, unfortunately, it's not one we can make," he said after his speech. "It has to be done by the Legislature."



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